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    • An NBC Bay Area Investigation reveals a dangerous concoction of drug needles, garbage, and feces lining the streets of downtown San Francisco. The Investigative Unit surveyed more than 150 blocks, including some of the city’s top tourist destinations, and discovered conditions that are now being compared to some of the worst slums in the world.

      If this is real, why has SF become a slum?

    • It's tragic. It seems to be a counter-intuitive side effect of the economic boom they are experiencing. High-flying companies like Salesforce, Uber, Slack, Airbnb, Twitter and dozens more have driven up the cost of rents to the point that people who work in retail, restaurants, etc., are unable to cope.

      About 6 months ago I read Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity. Crazy.

      A few months ago I took my daughter to Hamilton. We had some time to kill after the show, so we walked to Twitter's HQ and its surrounds. It's on Market Street, but the surrounding blocks south of it scared and depressed her.

    • SF always depresses me. Being a Trekker, I can't help but remind others of the Episode "Past Tense" from Deep Space Nine

      "The crew of the Defiant is thrown back in time to 2024 on Earth [to San Fran]. The United States of America has attempted to solve the problem of homelessness by erecting "Sanctuary Districts" where unemployed and/or mentally ill persons are placed in makeshift ghettos."

    • It's been like this for all of the 10+ years I've lived in SF. When I first moved to SF and I had no job I would go to the public library in Civic Center to hang out and work on my resume and email companies.

      I felt like I was sharing the place with people looking for refuge during the day. Homelessness was everywhere. Outside, waiting in line to get in before the library opened and of course inside. I'm sure the books and the roof were a welcome distraction for those who needed it.

      That was one of my first experiences in SF. I thought I was moving to the land of the rich and famous and sunny California weather.

      Riding the bus up and down polk street also was a unique experience. I never knew where the people on the bus were going, or coming from but it seemed better to make sure you get on/off somewhere in the middle.

    • SF make me sad. The level of homelessness never seems to change. They’ve done some good things, like navigation centers, that seem to help (according to those who run them-I cannot say I’ve heard much from their customers). I used to walk over to Scuderia from the train station-such a transition and really sad to see. Wealth to poverty to wealth in a 16 block walk.

      Some folks just seem to be trying to make it through the day while others are just aggressive panhandlers. I will usually ack those who ask or say anything.

    • I have some post-traumatic stress about this because as a child growing up in Oakland my mother got schizophrenia, she pulled me from elementary school, we lost our apartment, and lived on the streets for a few years. You woudn't think it could happen to a child, but it happened to us.

      It's a terribly difficult problem. Mom had a master's from Cornell and was in cancer research before schizophrenia got us in that situation. My understanding is perhaps a third of homeless people in America suffer from mental illness.

      The UN has recently focused on extreme poverty in America and as you might imagine, extreme inequality is playing a major role and they lamented how the new tax law will make it worse.

    • Finished reading the article. Needles and human waste are a big problem. I’d agree with that.

      I’d be curious if jobs are offered. Maybe helping to clean the city-maybe on a daily basis for those who don’t want long term. Benefits both parties by reducing cost to the city and giving something to those who are willing to work?

      The most recent spending (2017) proposal was $275M. The number of homeless was estimated to be around 7500ish. 69% said they lived in SF prior to becoming homeless. 1100 are waiting for a place in a shelter.

      The numbers are staggering.

    • On a lighter note, if it's even possible to smile about anything related to this, here's Sir Ian McKellen getting mistaken for a homeless man during a filming break.

    • Here in Boulder Colorado, there is a very, very large homeless "population". Why is it that I have not seen needles or human feces anywhere at any time (and I average about 2-3miles a day walking around the city).

      It's not cleaners. I only see city workers empty trash cans.

      Alleys are clean of feces and needles.

      What makes Boulder different from SF?

    • I just Googled the number of homeless in Boulder. It’s almost half of SF.

      Idk why the needles and waste is less of a problem though.

    • The ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) is a landmark and worth noting here as it predicts homelessness and poor health. After ACE, mental health became recognized as one of five major health epidemics in the country. Community efforts and health stations shifted their focus to mental health care after ACE:

      "Social service providers—including welfare systems, housing authorities, homeless shelters, and domestic violence centers – are adopting trauma-informed approaches that help to prevent ACEs or minimize their impact. Utilizing tools that screen for trauma can help a social service worker direct their clients to interventions that meet their specific needs.[44] Trauma-informed practices can also help social service providers look at how trauma impacts the whole family."

      But it is not enough.

    • I see it every day on my walk from Caltrain to the Financial District. It's hard to handle. I wish I could unsee some of the things I've seen. I don't know what the answer is, but something has to be done. There must be examples of cities who have figured out at least a partial answer, right?

    • Fort Worth, Texas apparently created a program to pay homeless people $10 an hour (plus benefits) to clean up trash. A few other cities have similar programs.

      This seems like a great way to help homeless people — many of whom have trouble finding work due to past criminal convictions or mental illness — both earn some money and do something beneficial for their communities, and it gives them a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty that keeps so many homeless people homeless.

      I really hope more cities follow this example.

    • My understanding is Utah is the gold standard when it comes to reducing homelessness. They have a philosophy that makes imminent sense to me:

      “Okay,” Tsemberis recalls thinking, “they’re schizophrenic, alcoholic, traumatized, brain damaged. What if we don’t make them pass any tests or fill out any forms? They aren’t any good at that stuff. Inability to pass tests and fill out forms was a large part of how they ended up homeless in the first place. Why not just give them a place to live and offer them free counseling and therapy, health care, and let them decide if they want to participate? Why not treat chronically homeless people as human beings and members of our community who have a basic right to housing and health care?"

      “Going from homelessness into a home changes a person’s psychological identity from outcast to member of the community,” Tsemberis says. The old model “was well intentioned but misinformed. It is a long stairway that required sobriety and required stability in order to get into housing. So many people could never achieve that while on the street. You actually need housing to achieve sobriety and stability, not the other way around. But that was the system that was there."

    • Thanks for this. I would suggest that one needs much more than just housing to achieve sobriety and stability. What many people don't understand is that alcohol and drugs (and other disfunctional coping mechanisms) is what keeps traumatized people alive in the first place. Taking that away without first treating the underlying emotional pain is like asking a quadruplegic to go for a run. They are not "weak" or "unworthy" other people, they really are broken, lacking the basic mind-body connections and you and I take for granted.

      Side question: I put a smily face on my own post by accident. How can I undo that?

    • Hi Rodrigo,

      Great point. Is that why there are so many vets on the streets?

      When you react to a post with an emoji, there should be a pale blue color over it. Click it a second time and the emoji goes away. Is that what you were asking? Sorry it's not clearer.

    • Yes, vets on the street are textbook. The first cure for PTSD afflicting vets was developed about 15 years ago and recently adopted by the VA. There is a second cure, which is just now starting to gain mainstream adoption. There is still a lot of misinformation out there. After all, the stigma associated with "crazy" people is as old as human culture.

      Undid the smily face. Duh, that was obvious. Don't know why I didn't see it before. Thanks.

    • 35 years ago, my late father in law was a superintendent at one of Massachusetts' largest mental hospitals as they shut it down and moved their clients to halfway homes. He swore that in another ten years, we'd have a growing epidemic of homelessness as these people, in his words, "wandered away" from their treatment.

      As someone that's worked in SF for almost 20 years, that's what appears to have happened. Mental illness, addiction, social problems keep people living on the streets and while we may have "saved" the money we were spending to run effective state mental institutions, we're now spending it on other services.

    • I lived in Colorado Springs for 20 years, and there was always a level of homelessness apparent. I visited again on Tuesday and it was astonishingly worse, with aggressive panhandling all over the place downtown. A guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties and was wearing a patagonia jacket asked me for money- it was easy to say no but it was hard not to be judgmental.

      We don't have much panhandling here in the mountains, but we do have a worryingly large population of van-dwellers using public land close to town. I get being down on luck, and my heart goes out. But these folks generate an incredible amount of waste and seem to trash the popular campsites- it's hard to want to help when there is such a level of disrespect by at least some of the population.

      It's such a complicated problem- friends who are better informed talk about all the well-intended ideas that have unintended consequences. For example, a number of soup kitchens in CS have a coordinated meal schedule (makes sense) but that apparently created an attractive enough option that people started migrating to town to take advantage of the three available meals per day. It seems like every community will have a population that needs help, but when they are shopping venue (no surprise that the density map didn't show much in Northern states), it becomes a more complicated issue. I'm not well enough informed to know all the ins and outs, but I do get that there are a lot of layers to it.

      I knew someone years ago who was running a program to give housing to indigent folks who were most abusing the ER. They would rent an apartment in Denver, stock it with food, and try to help the person, since that was much cheaper for the city than repeated ambulance/ ER visits, not to mention more humane. But, no one who worked for the program could afford to live in the neighborhoods where the apartments they gave away were- they had to commute into downtown since rents were too high. Somewhere, something is wrong.

      As someone who has privilege and health, it is so easy to have judgment and to see options for these people that they can't see, or can't take advantage of, themselves. It's hard to understand what they are living through, but I do my best to empathize and put some time and money into non-profits that are trying to help.

      Is there a dunno smiley?

    • A tweet from the pretty famous journalist Glenn Greenwald caught my attention yesterday. It was about a homeless man who was stabbed and taken to the hospital by ambulance. His faithful dog ran behind the ambulance and camped in front of the hospital waiting for his human to come out, but he had died. The dog waited for 4 months until they found a home for him 5 miles away, but he found his way back to the hospital where he lives outside to this day.

      Which got me thinking about therapy dogs for PTSD victims like the Parkland students, and children in the hospital with cancer. Who could be in more need of a therapy dog than a person living on the streets?

      Glenn wrote a story in The Intercept a couple of years ago: How Dogs Forge a Bond with Rio’s Homeless That Is Life-Saving for Both

      I cried when I read it but overall it's inspiring in the end.